Mail on Sunday editor refuses to meet Commons Speaker over Rayner article

Angela Rayner 270422 PA
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner has said she was left 'crestfallen' by the article. Credit: PA

The editor of The Mail on Sunday has refused to attend a meeting with Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle over the paper’s sexist comments regarding Angela Rayner.

Sir Lindsay told MPs on Monday he had arranged a meeting with David Dillon following an outcry over claims the Labour deputy leader crossed and uncrossed her legs during Prime Minister’s Questions to distract Boris Johnson.

In his response to the Speaker, published in the Daily Mail, Mr Dillon said he would not be attending.

Instead stating that journalists should “not take instruction from officials of the House of Commons, however august they may be”.

In his letter, he wrote: “The Mail on Sunday deplores sexism and misogyny in all its forms. However journalists must be free to report what they are told by MPs about conversations which take place in the House of Commons, however unpalatable some may find them.”

He said that while The Mail on Sunday had “the greatest possible respect both for your office and for Parliament [which] along with a free press they are the foundation stones of British democracy”, the invitation would be declined.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Sir Lindsay issued a plea to reporters to consider the feelings of MPs and their families when covering stories in Parliament.

He made the point that he had only recently rejected calls to remove the parliamentary pass from another journalist after some MPs called for The Mail on Sunday’s political editor Glen Owen - who wrote the report about Ms Rayner - to have his pass removed.

“I am a staunch believer and protector of press freedom, which is why when an MP asked me to remove the pass of a sketch writer last week for something he had written, I said ‘no’,” he said.

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said the Conservatives would not tolerate any “smear” like that directed against Angela Rayner by anonymous Tory MPs.

When asked if the whips had got any closer to determining who was responsible for the claims about the deputy Labour leader published by The Mail On Sunday, he told Sky News: “Well, I’d need to speak to the chief whip about this. Is it something that he will be looking at, and of course it’s very difficult to find.

“But what we’re clear is that we don’t tolerate and we will not tolerate any behaviour and smear like this, and if we can find out we will take action against it.”

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Labour's Angela Rayner has told ITV's Lorraine she was "crestfallen" to see sexist comments about her quoted in a controversial newspaper article but the defiant deputy leader suggested she doesn't need diversion techniques to debate Boris Johnson.

“When I heard the story was coming out and we rebutted it instantly… like this is disgusting, it’s completely untrue, please don’t run a story like that,” she said.

“All I worry about when I’m at the despatch box is doing a good job and being able to do justice to my constituents and the work I’m doing, so I was just really crestfallen that somebody had said that to a paper and a paper was reporting that.”

Prime Minister Johnson condemned the "sexist" comments and threatened the MP behind the "intolerable" comments with "the terrors of the earth" if he ever finds out who they are.

Speaking during a visit to Bury on Monday, Mr Johnson said he "immediately got in touch" with Ms Rayner after viewing the article, which he described as "the most appalling load of sexist, misogynist tripe".

"If we ever find who is responsible for [the comments], I don't know what we will do, but they will be the terrors of the earth.

"It's totally intolerable, that kind of thing."

He said he would "of course" seek to find out which Tory MP made the comments but did not give a timescale for carrying any investigation.